The Conservative government’s policies risk systematically stripping children of their rights, a report for the United Nations has found.
An assessment by the four children’s commissioners of the UK, the first full-scale review for seven years, called on the government to reconsider its deep welfare cuts, voiced “serious concerns” about children being denied access to justice in the courts, and called on ministers to rethink plans to repeal the Human Rights Act.
The commissioners, representing each of the constituent nations of the UK, conducted their review of the state of children’s policies as part of evidence they will present on Wednesday to the UN revealing how much progress has been made under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Many of the government’s decisions are questioned by the report as being in breach of the convention, which has been ratified by the UK. England’s children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, said:
“We are finding and highlighting that much of the country’s laws and policies defaults away from the view of the child. That’s in breach of the treaty. What we found again and again was that the best interest of the child is not taken into account.”
In particular there are continuing concerns over the issues of abuse and the impact on children – with 25% of children in the UK exposed to domestic abuse between adults in their homes at some point in childhood. Studies reveal that in family courts “many of the youngest and most vulnerable children are currently not heard”.
Perhaps the most shocking finding is the rise of peer-on-peer domestic abuse among young people. Commissioners say that almost two thirds of “contact sexual abuse of children was perpetrated by other children”.
Longfield said that “over the next five years it will be the case that there will be an enormous number of children through the court system and we need to reflect the need to engage and listen to them in a way that is not happening now”.
The commissioners argue the government’s plans to “break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights” by scrapping the Human Rights Act is a backwards step.
An ambitious bid to solve the Greek debt crisis via a crowdfunding website has attracted more than £200,000 of donations in two days.
Thom Feeney has set up the campaign to raise €1.6bn to save the Greek economy on the IndieGoGo site, and is appealing for Europeans to donate a few Euros each.
Mr Feeney, 29, said:
“All this dithering over Greece is getting boring. European ministers flexing their muscles and posturing over whether they can help the Greek people or not.
“Why don’t we the people just sort it instead?
“The European Union is home to 503 million people, if we all just chip in a few Euro then we can get Greece sorted and hopefully get them back on track soon. Easy.”
Rising living costs, stagnate wages and welfare reform are frequently cited as the primary causes for rising food poverty and in increase in the demand for food banks.
New research reveals the stark reality behind food poverty in the UK and shows how benefit changes are fuelling soaring levels of hunger and poverty.
Think Money surveyed 70 independent food banks to discover why more families than ever before are turning to them for help.
The survey also reveals the growing strain felt by food banks, as a growing number of families regularly go without food and struggle to cope with welfare cuts.
There has been a 66% increase in the number of independent food banks opening over the last three years. This is in addition to food banks operated by larger providers like Trussell Trust, who handed out more than one million food parcels in 2014-15.
A staggering 59% of food banks users say they frequently go without food three or more times a week.
Going on strike should be regarded as “an individual human right” and not be subject to a trade union vote, Wansbeck MP and former president of the mineworkers’ union Ian Lavery has said.
The Northumberland MP, who considered standing for the Labour Party leadership, predicts mass “civil disobedience” in the UK if the Government presses ahead with radical changes to trade union law.
The Conservatives want to bring in a 50% threshold that would see half of a union’s membership having to vote for a strike to be legitimate.
But former NUM chief Mr Lavery said pushing it through the legislation was a risk, adding: “This is a pure and utter attack on the trade union movement and an attack on workers.
“If the legislation proceeds through Parliament then I can see the trade unions ignoring it.”
He added: “I can see industrial action on a huge scale.”
Asked if he foresaw an era of wildcat strikes, he said: “I think it could be more serious than that. I think we could see civil disobedience.
Apprenticeship numbers have fallen sharply for the second year running in spite of the government making workplace training a cornerstone of its jobs policy.
Provisional numbers released by the Department for Business show 66,000 fewer people started apprenticeships in the last academic than in 2013/14.
Across the North-East 26,730 apprenticeships were started in 2014/15 – down by 3,750 from a year earlier, and a drop of almost 12,000 on the figure for 2011/12.
In Darlington the provisional year-on-year figures showed 220 fewer people started apprenticeships this year, while in Stockton there we 460 fewer.
A Government spokesperson said the provisional figure could be revised upwards when the final numbers are published later this year.
Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Small, medium and large employers in the North-East are playing a crucial role in creating a modern and competitive workforce that boosts the country’s productivity and prosperity.
“I want to work with as many of these businesses as possible to ensure they continue to shape the future of apprenticeships so that we can reach the target of 3 million by 2020.”
However, the drive to boost skills appears to have stalled amid a steadily downward trend in apprenticeship take-ups over the last three years.
Every day, hungry and homeless, 120 people pass through the doors of Newcastle’s People’s Kitchen.
Thirty years after being founded in the kitchen of a Heaton home, trustees say the service – which receives no council or Government funding – is more needed than ever.
But having created a community around their business, they say they need more volunteers “to feed the organisation so that it can feed the people.”
“People know of us, but its one of those things where people in some way seem to forget about us,” said trustee Colin Herron, who became involved with the charity after a talk at his daughter’s school.
“Yes at Christmas and harvest time we are very much in people’s consciousness, but the rest of the time we can slip out of it. Yet in February, or June, we are still badly needed.”
The People’s Kitchen was founded in 1985 following an Evening Chronicle story of a man whose body had been found in bushes on wasteland in Newcastle.
Deeply saddened on hearing that someone had passed away alone and unnoticed, grandmother Alison Kay, then 75, decided to do something to support the hungry, homeless and disadvantaged, and took it upon herself to make soup and sandwiches from her home in Heaton.
She also went to the city centre to sit with hungry and lonely men, some of whom also had alcohol-related problems.
In time she helped to break down their barriers of mistrust and more and more people came as word spread, and when two friends joined forces with Alison, the People’s Kitchen was born.
A councillor responsible for safeguarding youngsters has spoken of her fear for Sunderland’s looked-after children, as its numbers shoot up amidst Government cuts.
Coun Pat Smith, who is the portfolio holder for children and learning, called the 14% increase of children in care in just one year “a big worry”.
As of June 1, 591 young people were in the care of the council on Wearside, compared to 519 on the same date last year.
Coun Smith says she holds the Government responsible for more and more families losing their way in a desperate financial situation.
She said: “I think it is safe to say that it’s not rocket science when we see the numbers of people going into care.
“If benefits had not been cut this wouldn’t have happened.
“It puts the fear of God into me to see we have another five years of this.”
A market place will be turned into a foodbank collection point next month (Friday, July 10).
The Unite Community will be holding a donation event for County Durham Foodbank and the County Durham Socialist Clothing Bank in Durham Market Place on Friday, July 10 – the day before Durham Miners’ Gala.
The move was inspired by an event in Glasgow following last year’s Scottish independence referendum, staged to highlight the impact of austerity cuts.
A Unite Community spokesman said: “On the Saturday, over 100,000 people will take part in Durham Miners’ Gala in a huge demonstration of solidarity.
“We are asking them to extend their solidarity by a day to help out those desperately struggling or unable to make ends meet.”
The collection will run from 10am to 3pm.
A guide for immigrants published for the Government has been described as “not fit for purpose” by a North East academic.
Prof Thom Brooks of Durham University said The Practical Guide to Living in the United Kingdom features numerous errors and omissions.
It provides information on health, education, work and volunteering to newly arrived migrants and is designed to help migrants understand the legal requirements for short and long-term residency ‘to settle in quickly and enjoy your new life’.
Prof Brooks, himself originally from the US and a British citizen since 2011, says he uncovered surprising omissions such as how to report emergencies to the police and calculating and paying income and council taxes. He also found outdated information.
He said: “The Government published a new citizenship test in 2013 which was like a bad pub quiz. They claimed migrants should know more about their responsibilities than rights to claim benefits.
“Ironically, the new Practical Guide includes more information about claiming benefits than ever before”.
A Hebburn woman is hoping to help put food on the table of South Tyneside families struggling to make ends meet.
After her plans got out, she was inundated with generous donations from members of the public and, what was just an idea, quickly became a reality.
The 46-year-old said:
“I’ve got my own clothing alterations and repair shop and, a couple of months ago, I began thinking about turning the upstairs of the shop into a food bank.
“There is nothing like this in Hebburn that I’m aware of and I know what it is like to struggle.”
“A few people found out and started dropping off donations. At that point I hadn’t made my mind up but with the donations coming in, I thought I might as well go ahead with the idea.”
Despite only officially running the food bank for just over a week, Jo has been able to help three families who were left struggling to put food on the table.